Friday, April 15, 2011
Shaquille O'Neal to practice Saturday
By Chris Forsberg
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal remained sidelined Friday as the rest of his teammates engaged in a practice session that spanned more than two hours as Boston ramped up its activity in advance of Sunday's Game 1 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the New York Knicks.
One day after coach Doc Rivers suggested O'Neal might be back on the court to test out the sprained right calf -- the latest malady in a season that's seen O'Neal miss a total of 45 games due to multiple injuries -- O'Neal simply observed the session in full practice gear and departed without speaking to the media.
Rivers said the team had audibled to that no-contact plan Friday, but expects O'Neal on the floor Saturday.
"He watched the entire practice," said Rivers. "We knew that. We planned that. [Saturday] we'll see what he can do. He did some of the walk-through stuff [Thursday], but I just don't want to take the chance. We'll find out [Saturday]."
Asked if he would rule O'Neal out for Game 1, Rivers said it was still too early to do that.
"No, we'll find out [Saturday]," said Rivers. "He'll practice, hopefully [Saturday], then we'll make a decision after that."
Rivers admitted he essentially has two game plans written up and will simply pick one based on O'Neal's availability.
His teammates firmly believe O'Neal will be there when it matters most.
Asked if he thinks O'Neal will be a playoff contributor, Kevin Garnett said simply, "I'm very confident."
Captain Paul Pierce and others have echoed that sentiment. But if the Celtics are to accomplish their ultimate goal, the playoffs will be a two-month grind. That's a daunting proposition considering that O'Neal did not make it through any single month of the regular season without enduring some sort of injury.
On the more definitive side, the Celtics enjoyed having 14 healthy bodies on the court, including Delonte West, who moved without limitation just four days after aggravating a right ankle injury. West originally sprained the ankle in late February during an informal off-day workout and missed eight games. On Monday in Washington, he got steamrolled by the Wizards' JaVale McGee in transition and left the game.
Despite appearing glum about his prognosis and sitting out Wednesday's regular-season finale against the Knicks, West looked in full health Friday during 5-on-5 drills to close out the session, and remains on target to play in Game 1 on Sunday.
"Delonte's fine," said Rivers. "We're 100 percent, except for Shaq. Everybody else is pretty good, and that's good."
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.